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The Connection: Trans-Atlantic Quartet Forms Initial Bond Between LABBS and HI

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Ladies Association of British Barbershoppers and Harmony, Inc. have long shared a special bond that began with the chance meeting of Englishwoman Marilyn Penketh and American Ginny Gedney. Upon Marilyn’s passing this spring, her daughters penned the following account of her life and the beginnings of the LABBS-HI association.

Marilyn Penketh – 1945 – 2020
Our Mum, Marilyn Penketh, discovered barbershop back in 1976 at the age of 31 and decided to start her own chorus that same year in our front room. The Havant Ladies Barbershop Harmony Chorus, England, aka The Pitchpipers, was born and both of us wanted to join in, too. Toni-Ann, (being the eldest) got to join right from the start and Karen had to wait until she was eight! Mum was in a quartet with Toni-Ann and two other members (Kathy and Loli) and they called themselves The Havatones.

Mum threw herself into helping the fledgling Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers and became Treasurer first, followed by many other posts on the Executive Board including becoming the Chairman of LABBS in 1987 to 1989.

In February 1982, an Ginny Gedney came to visit The Pitchpipers. This American lady had been in England just a week, having moved there when her husband, Ron, had a job assignment in the town of Havant on the south coast. This was the start of Mum’s love for Harmony, Inc. Our families became really good friends and Ginny, Pam (her daughter), Marilyn and her youngest daughter Karen formed a quartet called The Connection that competed in 1983, placing 5th and winning the Novice Quartet Award.

One of the highlights for mum was traveling with Rhiannon Owens-Hall, Sheila Rice, Sandra Landey and Margaret DeWolf to Providence, Rhode Island, in 1985 with a view to learning about barbershop from Harmony, Inc. It was this trip that sparked off Mum’s desire to attend as many Harmony, Inc conventions as she could and to become an Associate member for more than
25 years.

Mum was instrumental in inviting the Village Vocal Chords over to one of our conventions and other quartets like Cameo Performance, Four In Accord, Kaleidoscope and The Villagers to name a few. She really wanted the two organisations to become close. So many Harmony, Inc members knew Mum. It is a real joy to know she had special bonds with all of you.

There is so much more we could write but I will leave this now with a heartfelt thanks to all the barbershoppers all over the world who knew Mum and who helped make her life full of song.
Mum and The Pitchpipers did a lot of charity fundraising for a local hospice, The Rowans. If you would like to donate to them, that would be wonderful.  They were amazing at helping Mum in the last few days of her life and we are eternally grateful for their compassion and dedication.

Submitted by Karen and Toni-Ann Penketh

The Pitchpipers (LABBS), coached by Barbara-Ann MacIntosh, Gloria Swanson, and Ginny Gedney, competed in 1986 with an American football set, singing All American Girl and Mr. Touchdown, USA.